Need for lifelong skills strategy
Rather than prepare people for specific jobs we need to prepare them for employability as we do not even know what kind of new jobs we are going to have in the years ahead
12 April 2017, 7:37am
Being the only minister responsible for both education and employment in the EU, I know how hard we need to work to get the world of education and the world of employment to step into each other and work together. High-quality work-based learning must become an integral part of education. Skills have to go beyond technical competence and must include social skills, flexibility, adaptability and the ability to continue learning.
Rather than prepare people for specific jobs we need to prepare them for employability as we do not even know what kind of new jobs we are going to have in the years ahead. We must work together with employers, unions and civil society, as without them we would be hard pressed to have a more economically competitive, adaptive and sustainable social Europe, which is essential to encourage the dissemination, exchange and transferability of good practices across Member States. Thanks to these social partners, we can boost the quality of education and training systems before young people actually go into the labour market.
By highlighting the themes of inclusive labour markets, inequalities, knowledge and skills, during this informal meeting of ministers for employment and social affairs, Malta ascertains that it is at the forefront of such an initiative. We acknowledge the interdependence of educational, economic, labour market and social inclusion policies and foster greater economic and social justice.
We also need to develop the skills and talents of those already in employment if we want them to remain in employment – re-skilling and up-skilling are crucial to tackle the skills obsolescence in a dynamic world. We also need a skills strategy for those who have lost their jobs as their skills have expired. When economies die, whole communities go into decline and people lose hope and trust. Then it becomes difficult to revive them.
All workers in low-skilled jobs and women in particular are at risk of being replaced by automation. This makes it even more important to work hard to retain them to prevent waste of talent and new forms of gender inequality.
Lifelong education has become crucial for keeping citizens employable and making Countries investment friendly. Lifelong education should be considered a strategic investment as much as investment in physical infrastructure. Lifelong education is the shared task of governments, employers, trade unions and civil society.
Promoting economic growth and job creation remain a priority in the EU, while ensuring that even new forms of employment enjoy the safeguarding of rights and dignity of workers. In order for Europe to maintain regional and global economic relevance, all member states need to be able to actively interpret, engage with and shape the current and long-term economic and social needs.
It was stressed during the debate that investing in skills and talents, not only is it the way forward but it is also essential for the European Union’s own viability and adaptability to deal with its current and future challenges. It is also our moral obligation to invest in the skills and talents of our citizens for their own wellbeing and prosperity to prevent poverty, exclusion and distrust in democracy’s ability to deliver a decent life for citizens.
In line with the main theme of the Maltese Presidency in the field of employment and social policy – Making Work Pay – we should all work together to empower our labour forces with the right skills for employability and to combat inequalities.
Evarist Bartolo is minister for education and employment
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